There’s lots that you’re entitled to do in Britain that I really didn’t realise that you could do, one of them is the entitlement to have a good old gawp at a murderer or pervert as they’re sentence to a lifetime in the slammer. Admittedly it’s a weird thing to do but it’s free and you’re entitled to do it, and I guess once you’re exhausted of visiting the science or history museums what else is there to do?
To enter the public viewing galleries of London’s central criminal court the Old Bailey you don’t go through the grand entrance you see on the news but through a side entrance, a rather grotty looking side entrance in a subway, a subway where tramps and drug abusers would probably fit right in. There were ‘youths’ hanging outside the entrance to the viewing galleries and as I passed them I overhead one say “All my dayz did yo hear wat dat judge waz saying ’bout me”, or something along those lines. I felt I was certainly entering the world of crime. A world I really don’t know much about.
The first ‘crime’ I committed, I haven’t committed many, was when I was on a school trip to an art gallery. I remember after the tour around the gallery, which frankly no child is really interested in but getting out of double maths is always a bonus, we visited the souvenir shop – the highlight of any school trip. With great thought and consideration I decided to buy with my pocket money some sweets from the Pick ‘n’ Mix confectionary stand in the shop. As I waited in the long queue of school children eager to pay for their rectangle shaped pencil eraser with the art gallery’s logo printed on the top, or their novelty art gallery notebook with comedy googly eyes attached to the front, I found myself in a bit of a daze thinking of how great it was to be missing double maths (I got an E in GCSE maths – useless). As I daydreamed, standing in the queue, I unconsciously started eating from the open bag of sweets in my hand. By the time I was one school child away from reaching the souvenir shop counter I abruptly awoke from my wandering mind to realise, to my dismay, I’d eaten all the Pick ‘n’ Mix before I’d even paid for them. For some reason in my weird little child head I thought I’d be arrested so panicked and made a bizarre choice to run out of the shop. Nobody noticed or probably cared, but from the day on I could officially be classed as criminal (this of course doesn’t included all the drugs and prostitutes I’ve had since. I jest. Or do I? No, honestly I’m joking!)
I was hoping on my visit to the Old Bailey to witness a criminal trial that was a bit more exciting than the case of the stolen Pick ‘n’ Mix. A juicy murder or at least a good old bank robbery would have done, but it seemed by pure luck on the day I visited the Old Bailey I’d stuck gold – the trial of Rebekah Brookes and News of the World phone hacking scandal.
Before I entered the criminal court I was expecting to witness scenes like those in films such as A Few Good Men or Twelve Angry Men, or any other court room based drama with the word men in the title. I was hoping for doors slamming open as somebody looking like Danny DeVito rushes in with last minute verdict changing evidence that had only just been found, or men shouting “Objection” and “Overruled” at each other. The reality of a court of law is it’s actually quite boring, but surprisingly modern.
Lots of men and women were sat behind desks wearing those funny wigs. I really don’t know the history behind the wigs they wear in court, but I’m not sure how you’re supposed to take anyone seriously with a small section of carpet plonked on their head. Everyone had laptops, ipads and smartphones. Technology everywhere. The jury really did look like a fair cross section of British society; the law professionals not so much. Sat in front of me was the accused, Rebekah Brookes, former editor of the News of the World and whom I recognised off the telly. She was charged with conspiring to intercept communications without lawful authority, and had now become an unintentionally celebrity.
I stared at Rebekah Brookes for a long time. I pondered what possibly could be going through her head. Was the same fears and panic running through her mind, as ran through mine the day I fled the souvenir shop with stolen sweets guiltily dissolving in my belly? No, she didn’t seem bothered at all. In fact she was texting somebody on her phone. I then noticed everyone was texting on their phones or looking on the internet or frankly were quite bored.
It seems to me the problem with court is everything’s done so meticulously that it takes ages to do, and consequently didn’t offer the entertainment I was hoping for. I watched for about forty-five minutes and had absolutely no idea what was going on. I looked at the jury, made up of what seemed to be average people like me, and wondered how they all kept up with what was happening. I thought to myself I hope I don’t ever get called up for jury service because I might just bugger it up.
In summary: It was nice to experience how a courtroom works, but I just hope my crimes as a ten year old don’t catch up on me and I end up on the other side.
ONWARDS TO MORE NEW DAYS…